The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Width: 111.000 mm
Height: 60.000 mm
Gift of J.T. Hadwen
Coins and Medals
New Jersey, AD 1776
Printing with coloured inks and leaves
From the late seventeenth century, the British colonies in North America issued their own paper bills to fund military expeditions, public amenities, and to provide currency for everyday use. This practice continued during the American Revolution and War of Independence (1775-80), with each state still issuing its own notes.
To discourage forgery, some of the notes featured imaginative printing techniques, well ahead of their time. The front of this high-value New Jersey note is printed entirely in red and blue, a hundred years before colour printing on notes became widespread.
The notes were often printed on the back, another advanced feature for the time. This note shows the charming effect of 'nature-printing' to produce images of leaves. Plaster casts were made from real leaves, such as strawberry, willow or buttercup. These were then used to make lead casts for printing. The security value lay in the unique pattern of veins on each leaf. The technique is particularly associated with the printer and publisher Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), though it was used by other printers.
J. Cribb, Money: from cowrie shells to c (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)
E.P. Newman, The early paper money of Ameri, 3rd edition (Krause Publications, 1990)